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Throughout the week long International Agatha Christie Festival 2017 which took place in Torquay’s 14th Century Torre Abbey, Encounters presented a new work, The Story in the Object inspired by the archaeological memoir Come, Tell Me How You Live by Agatha Christie.

This memoir shares her reflections on the people, places, and treasured finds she came across during the time she worked alongside her archaeologist husband in Syria and Iran. The memoir’s searching and expansive title question was a stepping off point for this new work that asked the same question again Come, Tell Me How You Live in 2017, through an exploration of our relationship to the objects and things we buy, keep or treasure. It explored how the personal stories behind our relationship to objects reveal how we live now, what we care about and what we want to treasure for the future.

The Story in the Object was an interactive artwork, a playful cabinet of curiosities co-created with local residents and visitors that filled up throughout the festival as people brought treasures from Torbay and beyond to add to an evolving collection. It linked objects from around the world with those gathered in contemporary Torquay in a democratic, playful way.

Objects gathered were accompanied by stories from their owners, creating a personal reflection on life in Torquay today and beyond and the sometimes extraordinary stories they tell of our lives. The interactive exhibition brought a playful but reflective eye on our very human trait of attaching meaning to objects, how this affects the world around us, and how the story behind the object can invest it with intangibly strong values.

During the five days of the festival, Encounters invited people to join them, with or without an object, to meet others, share and listen to stories, and contribute to this evolving cabinet of curiosities from our age of profusion.

The Story in the Object at the Agatha Christie Festival was part of the pioneering Heritage Futures Research Programme.  Artist Shelley Castle and anthropologist Jennie Morgan (Research Fellow at the Department of Sociology University of York) collaborated under the Profusion strand within this programme. They addressed the challenge presented by the abundance of material and digital ‘stuff’ in our world investigating how we decide what to keep in the face of mass production and consumption and what is selected for long-term keeping and why. What are the complex yet often unacknowledged motivations, emotions, and judgements that shape what makes it into the future?